Love Always

I miss you.
I still love you.
I think about you all the time.
But I can’t play this game anymore.
Just know that I never want to forget you.
Always and forever,
xo

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Conceptualizing Mental Illness: I Challenge YOU

Conceptualizing Mental Illness: I Challenge YOU

Why is it that we have this idea in our minds of mental illness as this terrible phenomenon. I mean, yes mental illness sucks if you are going through it, but many people live totally normal lives despite their illnesses. I recently did a google image search of the term “mental illness” and the results depicted people crying, cut wrists, skinny women staring at their reflections, and people cradling their heads in the hands. The one thing that these images have in common is the fact that the overarching theme is sadness and despair. None of the pictures looked happy. On the contrary, all of these images illustrate mental illness in a very dark light.
So why is it that mental illness is depicted in this way? I think it has something to do with the very shallow understanding of mental illness that permeates society. Most people associate mental illness with sadness (not surprisingly) and so they might see the search results that I got on google as only natural. But the fact of the matter is that many people are living normal, happy lives alongside a mental illness. So why don’t my google search results illustrate happy, smiling people? There was not a single image of a person smiling or laughing in my search results. I feel like this is because most people only see the one side of mental illness and cannot look past this. But there is more to people than their mental illness. Just because a person is diagnosed with a mental illness this does not mean that the person is doomed to a life of misery for eternity. Sure, they may have their ups and downs, but who doesn’t?
What I’m trying to say here is that the conceptualization of people with mental illnesses as being sad and messed up all the time is only making the stigma around mental health worse. So, how do we fix this? We change the way we think about mental illness. That is why I am challenging YOU, my readers, to critically think about the way you conceptualize mental illness. When you think about mental illness, what images come to mind. Do you see someone sad and hurting? Or do you see a smiling person? We need to change the way we think about mental illness if we ever hope to end the stigma. We need to see the other side of mental illness. If not to end the stigma, then to give hope to those who are struggling. It is important that people know that there is hope for a happy future.
Please, rethink the way you conceptualize mental illness.

Mental Health and Criminal Responsibility

Mental Health and Criminal Responsibility

Ever since realizing that I have a mental illness, I have become a huge advocate for individuals with mental health. One of the most common complaints that I hear is that people are using mental illness as an excuse to get out of jail. What bothers me about this is the complete ignorance of people who make this claim. First of all, people who commit crimes but are found Not Criminally Responsible By Reason of Mental Disorder are not simply set free after committing crimes. These people are still being detained, they are just being sent to a facility that will help them get better rather than just sending them into a prison to get worse in a cell. So in a way, yes these people are getting out of jail. BUT they are not being set free.
Also, while some people might try to use mental illness as an excuse when they are not actually suffering, this usually does not work in their favor because they may actually end up spending more time in an institution than they would have served in a prison. Furthermore, these individuals must be assessed by professionals in order to use this defence successfully. So if an individual uses a mental illness as a defence for a crime, chances are that the individual is actually dealing with a mental illness that likely had some impact on their actions.
The accusation that mental health is just an excuse to get people out of paying for their crimes is just one more way that mental illness is being stigmatized. If we ever hope to end the stigmatization of mental health we need to work towards ending accusations such as these.
This is not to say that the actions of the individuals are okay simply because they are mentally ill. On the contrary, the actions definitely need to be recognized as wrong and the people need to be punished to that mental illness does not become an excuse for crime. However, since mental illness is clearly NOT an excuse for crime, society needs to stop treating it as such. Society needs to stop criminalizing and stigmatizing the people who are often suffering the most.

“Never stop Fighting”… You should never have to start in the first place

I came across this image recently because I really love quotes and I fell in love with this one as soon as I read it. But after I read it for the third or fourth time I realized something: its just another cliche. I’ve come across so many quotes that have the same basic message of “fight to be who who should be, not who others want you to be” or “never give up”. I mean these quotes are inspirational sometimes, but after a while, I started to wonder why we need to fight in the first place. Why can’t we all just live in a world where we accept each other for who we are? Why do we grow up feeling like we have to be someone else? Why can’t we all just be who we want to be? WHY?!?
I don’t understand society. It is so messed. Up. One second we are being told to be ourselves and to never give up the battle to be who we truly are and then the next moment we are being judged and scrutinized if we dont conform to the norms and expectations of society.
I’m sorry, but MAKE UP MY MIND.
So basically, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.
And people wonder why there are so many problems in this world…yeesh.

Lose yourself in someone else’s story

Lose yourself in someone else's story

Lately I’ve been having a really hard time dealing with a lot of problems in my life. As I’ve mentioned before, I often cope with the emotions that I’m feeling through writing, music, and art. However, another great coping mechanism that I have come across is reading. I haven’t had a lot of time for reading over the last few months because I have been so busy trying to keep up with my course work in university, but last week I had no classes so I just read a whole bunch of books. It was amazing to get away from the stress of my own life and get lost in someone else’s problems for once.
So if anyone who reads this is feeling really stressed out, I highly recommend taking some time to yourself and reading a good book or two. Its so relaxing!

Myths about mental illness: You stand corrected

Myths about mental illness: You stand corrected

#1. Self-harmers are just attention seekers
If self-harm was for attention, why do the majority of people hide it from friends and family. Nobody in my life has any idea that I am dealing with self-harm and I certainly have no intention of telling anyone. The fact of the matter is that self-harm has absolutely nothing to do with attention. It is a coping mechanism. This includes all forms of self-harm such as cutting, hitting, burning, eating disorders, etc. These things cannot and should not be chalked up to people just looking for attention. These issues are a sign of a serious mental illness and should not be belittled. If you know someone who is suffering from self-harm, take them seriously.
#2. Mental illnesses will just go away on their own
Many mental illnesses are caused by hormonal imbalances in the brain. This means that if an illness is left untreated, an individual’s condition may actually continue to depreciate with the passage of time. While it is true that some mental illnesses can go away on their own or with minimal treatment (ie. self-help), this is not the case for many illnesses.
#3. Eating disorders are not real illnesses
An eating disorder is classified in the DSM5 as a diagnosable illness. If you disagree with this then it is likely that you are not a professional in the psychological field of medicine. If you were, you would know that eating disorders are most definitely real illnesses. If you still believe this myth, I suggest you check out the website for NEDA and do some more research.
#4. Mentally ill people are more violent
Thanks to the media, there is a common misconception that mentally ill people are violent. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I a good episode of Criminal Minds just as much as the next person, but they do a terrible job of portraying mental illness. Shows such as Criminal Minds tend to portray people with mental illness as delusional, murderous individuals who belong in an insane asylum. While there are many cases in which mental illness can be linked to crime, this does not mean that mental illness is a precondition for violence. In fact, mentally stable individuals are responsible for the majority of violence and crime. Therefore, the idea that mental illness is associated with violence directly is based on ignorance, not fact.
#5. Cutters are suicidal
Most people who cut themselves are not actually suicidal. A cut is not a failed attempt at suicide. These people are simply looking for a way to cope with the emotional hardships, struggles, and trauma in their lives. While this is certainly not a positive outlet for the emotional pain which they are feeling, it is also not a sign of suicidal behavior in MOST cases.
#6. Mentally ill people lack intelligence
Mentally ill people do not have lesser intelligences to mentally stable people. This is so wrong. Mental illness has about the same bearing on the IQ of an individual as the common cold. I am an example of this as I struggled with mental illness all through high-school but I graduated with an average of 87%. I was even nicknamed “smart one” by one of my peers. So clearly the fact that I have multiple mental illnesses does not have any bearing on my level of intelligence.
#7. Mental illness is a life-long issue
While many mental illnesses are a result of chemical imbalances in the brain which require life-long treatment, this does not mean that all mental illnesses are life-long battles. Recovery is definitely possible. There are plenty of people who have recovered from eating disorders, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and so on. There are plenty of treatment options for people with mental illness and it is definitely possible to recover.
#8. Everyone has anxiety, you just have to learn to deal
Yes, everyone has anxiety. It is a natural instinctual reaction to danger. But not everybody feels anxiety all the time, or to the extremes that an individual with an anxiety disorder experiences it. In some cases, people have a chemical imbalance which results in more anxiety. I have experienced this first hand and I was told that I would just have to learn to “calm down” and “deal with it”. I suffered in silence for years until it reached a breaking point. I talked to my doctor and it turns out that the solution is simple. The moral of the story is that sometimes it is not as easy as just learning to deal with it better. Sometimes extra support is needed.
#9. Panic attacks are not a “real” mental illness
If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, you will know that it is not normal. While having one panic attack under stressful circumstances may not be a sign of mental illness, there are individuals who suffer from panic attacks on a regular basis in seemingly normal situations. For these individuals, it is entirely possible that they have a panic disorder and these illnesses are definitely real.
#10. I would KNOW If I had a mental illness
Most of us like to think that we would know if we had a problem, but in many cases we are completely unaware. In some cases it is a matter of simply not wanting to admit it to ourselves, others are unaware of the symptoms and warning signs, while other recognize the behaviors but see no problem with them (this is especially true for cases of eating disorders). For this reason, it is often difficult for individuals to accept that there is something wrong when others try to reach out to them.
#11. I would know if someone I care about has a mental illness
People with mental illnesses are often extremely good at hiding their symptoms. As I have mentioned previously and in other posts, I suffer from an eating disorder, anxiety, and self-harm. For the most part I have kept my issues to myself. The only thing that people really know about is my anxiety which I have told five people about. I, like many people, choose to hide my illness because I intend to deal with it on my own. This does not mean that the people in my life are blind or ignorant, it simply means I am really good at putting on a show. So for those of you who feel like you should have known that someone you care about is ill, please don’t feel guilty. There is nothing you could have done.
#12. Mental illness is uncommon
Mental illness is actually extremely common. Many people don’t even realize that they have a mental illness so there are thousands of people in the world who are suffering from an undiagnosed illness. You would probably be surprised to know how common mental illness actually is.
#13. Mental illness is a sign of weakness
Mental illness is NOT a sign that you are weak. It is not something that you can control. It just happens. Just as you cannot control whether you catch a cold. Certainly there are precautions which you can take in order to prevent mental illness and promote mental health, but there is no fool-proof way to stop mental illness from occurring and just because you are mentally ill does not mean you are weak. On the contrary, if you are mentally ill and you take the step to seek out professional help you are actually quite strong. It is a sign of strength to ask for help. So congratulations to you if you have taken that step!
Thank you for reading! If you are interested in reading more about mental health please follow me!

Finding Happiness

This is going to sound so cliche, but I’ve finally found my “key to happiness” so to speak. I’ve recently discovered that I am a lot happier when I stop caring about what other people want for me and focus on what I want for myself. A lot of my unhealthy behaviors (ie. eating disorder, cutting, etc.) have been an attempt to control something, ANYTHING, in my life. I’ve always been the kind of person that leans on other people such as my friends and family for support, but over the last year I have been wanting to become more independent. Rather than continuing to do things that I know will keep other people happy at the expense of my own happiness, I’ve decided to do what is going to make me happy. This doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped caring about other people, I just decided to stop ignoring what I want. When I did this I had this burst of happiness. The only way I can possibly explain it is to say it was as close to mania as I have ever been. I suddenly wanted to do everything all at once. I wanted to write, sing, draw, dance, run, and just laugh. I was the happiest I can remember being in a very long time.

The ironic part is that this all came about when I ended things with a guy I had been seeing for a year. I had changed myself so much so that he and I would have things in common that I had totally lost sight of who I was as a person. Initially when I ended it I was really sad (the typical post-break-up crying) but then it dawned on me that I was free to be who I wanted to be. I was free to listen to whatever music I wanted and what whatever movies I wanted and take part in whatever hobbies I wanted without someone criticizing me for it.

This was such a freeing experience. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still missed him, but the good outweighed the bad. And it helps that he and I are still really good friends. He is still my best friend. So even though I’ve lost the romantic relationship, I’ve still held onto the friendship which was the most important part of the relationship from the very beginning.

What I’m trying to say is that even though things like a break-up can be really negative, it can also be a learning experience to reflect on. It is what you make it. Like I said before, I haven’t been this happy in a really long time. I haven’t hurt myself in days and my eating disorder does not have such a strong hold on me anymore. Even though I’m not recovered, I feel like I’ve made a huge step forward. I’ve started to live my life for myself and it feels amazing.

Life lesson: My life as a metaphorical tree

Life lesson: My life as a metaphorical tree

How do you draw pain? One of the things that I found to actually help me deal with negative emotions is to express them in productive ways rather than just bottling everything up inside. Sometimes I write poems, sometimes I write songs, but today I felt like drawing. I had this really strong desire to draw for some reason even though its something that I don’t usually do, so I sat down at my desk with a blank sheet of paper, pencil in hand. But then I ran into a problem: how do I draw pain?
It has always been natural for me to express my emotions through writing, but visual art has never really been my thing. So when I decided to draw today I was really puzzled. I feel so much anxiety right now that I need to put into something productive, but I just didn’t know how to do it with art.
Eventually, I decided to use the same approach that I tend to use with poetry; I used metaphors to express my feelings. I ended up drawing a tree to symbolize everything that I’m feeling. While most of the time trees are used to symbolize life and growing up and becoming your own person, this tree symbolizes something else for me. The trunk of the tree is the initial source of pain, the one thing that just won’t stop haunting me. The branches symbolize everything else. They stem from the trunk (just as all the emotions I’m feeling now stem from the initial event) and then they move outward and branch off into even smaller branches and twigs and leaves.
For me, the leaves are the parts of myself that everyone can see. Just as the leaves change colour in the fall, my outward self tends to change as time goes on in order to hide the real me. Just as the leaves fall from the tree in the coldest and darkest months of the year, my ideal projection of myself falters when I am at my darkest points.
Even though this is starting to sound really depressing, there is good in the metaphorical tree as well. The most important thing to remember about a tree is that it is resilient. Even after losing its leaves time and time again, the tree continues to renew itself and replace what it has lost with newer, healthier leaves. This is promising for me because it reminds me that even though I am in a sad place right now, there is a brighter future ahead if I can only make it through the metaphorical winter. Even in the hardest of times the tree remains rooted to the ground standing tall.
So even though the process of drawing started out pretty difficult, it actually turned out to be a really self-reflexive exercise. I feel as though I have learned a lot about myself. I’m stronger than I thought I was. I’m standing tall even after weathering the storms of my life. Even though I’m not recovered yet, I know that somehow everything is going to be okay.

Rambling thoughts

Recently, Demi Lovato tweeted, “Perfectionism only leads to disappointments and insecurities. Self acceptance leads to nothing but confidence, motivation, strength, and humility. Is “perfection” really worth sacrificing your emotional freedom at the expense of other’s standards and expectations? Who are YOU living for: our society or YOURSELF?”

This really made me stop and think for a moment. All too often we hear that the standards of beauty in society are unrealistic, this isn’t news to me. But when it is framed as a question of whether I am living for myself or society, it kind of changes the way I think about it a bit.

The conclusion that I came to is that it should not be a question of whether I am living for myself OR society, because the fact of the matter is that I am living for both. I am living for myself for sure—it is my life after all—but it is society which influences my perceptions and values in the world. So even though I feel like I am doing something for myself (like losing weight) the reason I am actually doing it is a result of what society has told me I should be doing. It would be easy to say that I should simply ignore society and be who I want to be, but that would be impossible. A lot of the messages that society sends to people are subliminal messages that don’t even register in the conscious mind. Even the act of ignoring society is sort of indirectly a result of society telling people what to do.

But all the same, Demi’s tweet really resonated with me. She is truly an inspiration to me because she has gone through everything I am experiencing right now and she has somehow come out of it a stronger person. So maybe there is hope after all.

The last few days have been really terrible for me. It’s like everything annoys me. I just want to be alone. I feel bad for my family because I know they are just trying to talk to me but even the most well-meaning comment bothers me. So rather than just sitting in my room I decided to write a blog.

Thanks for reading this long-winded (probably boring) post!

So, you say she was “asking for it”? Maybe you should think twice.

It makes me really sad to know that there is probably someone in the world right now who is going through the same thing I went through, suffering in the same way that I have for years. I have suffered in silence for so long and I never really thought about the fact that there are so many other young women and girls who are going through the same sort of hell that I faced as a child. I feel so helpless. There is nothing I can do to stop them from their torment. There are so many sick people in the world; so many people who don’t care who they hurt along the way as long as they get what they want. It upsets me to know that somewhere in the world there is probably some helpless little girl being victimized. That girl will grow up thinking that it is somehow her own fault. She will likely feel ashamed. She might even develop mental health issues as a result. I don’t understand how someone could care so little about another human being that they would condemn them to a life of suffering like that. The memories never go away. The suffering never ends. I can’t even put into words how much I hate the cruelty of the world sometimes.

Some people would look at this post and say “life isn’t fair”, but the issue goes so far beyond a debate about whether or not it is fair (for the record it’s not). The fact of the matter is that nobody deserves to suffer as a result of someone else’s sick-minded manipulations. It makes me sick to even think about this. This isn’t a matter of whether or not it is fair or right for someone to suffer, it is a matter of thousands of young women being victimized and having their lives turned upside down. For someone to even suggest that “life isn’t fair” when talking about sexual abuse is absolutely disgusting. But the sad fact of the matter is that there are actually people out there who would use this cliché statement in passing when engaging in a discussion about abuse. It’s as if they don’t even care. Or maybe they feel so helpless to do anything that they cannot even bring themselves to stigmatize the perpetrators of the crime.

Victims of sexual assault have been stigmatized for years. Some people claim that they were asking for it while others claim that the victims are lying. What bothers me about this is that under no circumstances is a woman “asking for it” unless she explicitly consents to the actions. And what about all the children who are victims? Were they asking for it too? The majority of them probably didn’t even understand what was happening at the time!! Its so disgusting. So to all the people who think that way, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?

So this is a call to action: rather that stigmatizing the victims, how about we stigmatize the people who are committing these crimes. It’s time to take action. I may not be able to save someone who is suffering right now, but I can certainly fight the stigmatization of victims.